By Somadeva
Translated by Sir James Mallinson


Soma·deva composed his “Ocean of the Rivers of Story” in Kashmir in the eleventh century CE. It is a vast collection of tales based on “The Long Story,” a now lost (and perhaps legendary) repository of Indian fables, in which prince Nara·váhana·datta wins twenty-six wives and becomes the emperor of the sorcerers. There are tales within tales within tales. By turns funny, exciting, or didactic, they illustrate points within the frame narrative or are told simply to provide entertainment for the protagonists. Its twenty thousand plus verses are written in simple but elegant Sanskrit and it has long been used as an introductory text for students of the language.

The story of the composition of “The Long Story” is told early on in the text:

So that the sorcerers could not steal it, that great poet wrote it in the forest, using his own blood because he had no ink. In consequence the sky there seemed constantly to be covered with a canopy because of the siddhas and sorcerers who came to listen.

556 pp.  |  ISBN-13: 978-0-8147-8816-5  |  ISBN-10: 0-8147-8816-5  |  Co-published by New York University Press and JJC Foundation

About the Translator

Sir James Mallinson translates and edits Sanskrit literature for the JJC Foundation, co-publishers (with NYU Press) of the Clay Sanskrit Library. He has also translated volume two of The Ocean of the Rivers of Story, The Emperor of the Sorcerers volume one and volume two, and Messenger Poems for the CSL.